Anne Arundel bike advocates peddle merits of safe cycling

Each week, when the weather allows, Jon Korin hops on his road bike and pedals far enough for a three-day tally that cyclists call a century ride — 100 miles.

This year, the retired Severna Park resident who grew up riding his bike to school reached another cycling goal: He joined with Anne Arundel cyclists to launch the county's first bicycling advocacy group.

Korin, 59, is president of Bicycle Advocates for Annapolis and Anne Arundel County (BikeAAA), which began in March as a project for Leadership Anne Arundel, a nonprofit that gathers residents for community service and outreach.

As part of the organization's Flagship Program, a skills and leadership class, Korin and other cycling enthusiasts sought efforts to promote biking and discovered that Anne Arundel was among a few local jurisdictions without a bike advocacy organization.

"Anne Arundel County has an active outdoor culture, but we need more safe places to ride to get more people to ride to work, school, shopping and other destinations," Korin said.

The organization formed, began accepting memberships during the summer and, in September, was awarded 501(c)(3) nonprofit status.

Korin typically rides 27 miles on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 40 to 60 miles on Saturdays. On Thursday, his attempt at 27 miles was cut short because of a quick-moving winter storm that dusted the area with snow.

Korin said BikeAAA has grown steadily, bolstering efforts to increase safe cycling through education and improved riding conditions. He noted that the group's launch came amid two bicycling tragedies on Anne Arundel roads.

In July, bicyclist Thomas Patrick Heslin, 57, of Severna Park, died after he was hit by a dump truck while riding in Severna Park. Police said Heslin, a teacher at the Severn School, failed to yield the right of way to the dump truck.

In August, Patricia Cunningham, 50, an Annapolis High School assistant track and cross country coach, died of injuries suffered in a crash with a vehicle while bike riding in Davidsonville, according to county police.

"We already felt a need to draw attention to both the benefits and the safety requirements of cycling," Korin said. "Those two events really drew a tremendous amount of attention in the county about the issue of safe cycling and safe behavior by both drivers and cyclists. It was really a call for education for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians also."

The Capital News Service recently compiled data indicating that there were 841 accidents between cars and bikes in Maryland in 2012, according to Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration figures.

"We're focused largely on cyclists, but we're also trying to provide education for drivers," Korin said. "A lot of drivers simply don't know what the laws are as they relate to bikes and cars."

Among the guidelines that exist in Maryland, according to the state Motor Vehicle Administration's, are:

•Motorists must allow 3 feet between the vehicle and a bicycle when attempting to pass.

•Bicyclists have the right of way when a motor vehicle is making a turn, and motorists must yield to the bicycle. If a motorist fails to yield and the result leads to serious injury to the bicyclist, the motorist can be fined $1,000 and assessed 3 points on his or her driving record.

•Bicyclists are prohibited from roads with speed limits of 50 miles per hour or more.

•Bicyclists must ride as close to the right side of the road "as practical and safe" except during such instances as when the right lane is a right turn-only lane.

•Helmets are required for all cyclists, including passengers, under age 16 on any public property. (Some local jurisdictions have their own laws.)

"There are sets of rules also on trails that cyclists, joggers, dog-walkers, stroller-pushers, roller-bladers, all the trail users, follow for trail safety," Korin said.

BikeAAA lobbies cities, counties and states for more bike trails, striped bike lanes and bike signs, and is working with Annapolis officials to ensure that the city receives at least Bronze Bike-friendly Community status from the Washington-based nonprofit League of American Bicyclists.

"Cycling is important in Anne Arundel County for four big reasons," said Korin. "The first is health. What's the No. 1 health challenge in Anne Arundel County? Obesity.

"Second is traffic congestion — get people out of their cars. Third is environment — less [polluted] runoff in the bay and less air pollution," Korin said. "And the fourth, economic, because homes that are close to trails have a higher value — and that's more tax base."

For more information on Bicycle Advocates for Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, go to

Josh Birch of Capital News Service contributed to this article.

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